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  1. #1
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    Rome Express (GB, Walter Forde, 1932)



    Conrad Veidt's first English film is a tight comedy/thriller, neatly scripted and directed with plenty of humour. Set on a train journey from Paris to Rome, the lives of a film star and her press agent, two gangsters, one police chief, an art thief, an adulterous couple, a spiteful philanthropist and his meek secretary, and one prize bore are all linked together by murder. The film boasts fine performances from everyone concerned but the friendly rivalry between some of the greatest scene stealers ever is what really brings the film to life.



    The direction of the film sets the tone - the beginning shows the hustle and bustle of a busy Paris station, the characters are introduced amongst the crowds. The camera moves amongst the crowd, we see the golfing bore, Mr Bishop (Gordon Harker) buying some saucy French postcards, it then follows a couple of nuns before settling on a magazine stand containing some very risqué magazines and a row of Film Weekly magazines featuring the film star Asta Marvelle (Esther Ralston) - who then appears on the platform with her fast talking manager (Finlay Currie). A shifty, nervous character (Donald Calthrop) is watching the train as George Grant (Harold Huth) meets up with Mrs. Maxstead (Joan Barry) for an illicit holiday. Monsieur Jolliffe (Frank Vosper) appears amongst a flurry of chaotic family members whilst self-proclaimed philanthropist Mr McBain (Cedric Hardwicke) waits impatiently for his secretary Mills (Eliot Makeham). The shifty chap settles into his compartment under the name of Mr Poole at the last moment, clutching his briefcase as he looks nervously from the window. As the train begins to pull out two men, Zurta (Conrad Veidt) and Tony (Hugh Williams) run through the station and jump aboard.



    The film is a comedy and each actor strives to bring out as much comedic business as possible whilst remaining strictly in character. Finlay Currie, complete with American accent and straw boater enjoys some fast talking humour - "Remember I was once press agent for Tom Mix's horse!- as he plugs one gag after another to boost publicity for film star Asta Marvelle. He may not have a prominent role in this film, but he makes sure he's remembered! The spirited competition between the very talented and well established actors Donald Calthrop, Gordon Harker, Frank Vosper, Cedric Harwicke and Conrad Veidt keeps the film lively as each actor plays every scene stealing trick in the book - Calthrop's twitchy facial expressions, Harker's comedic timing, Vosper's hamming, Hardwicke's mischevious twinkle and Veidt's depth and intensity. However, the dynamics between the actors is never compromised, in fact it is enhanced, by the friendly competition which suggests the film was as enjoyable to make as it is to watch. Forde has used these strengths, allowing each actor to go so far but ensuring that each has his turn without any one actor dominating the whole film.

  2. #2
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    Great film, and a very perceptive analysis of the characters, jjg [img]style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/thumbsup.gif[/img]



    rgds

    Rob

  3. #3
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    Thank you Sir!



    (By the way, love your avatar!)

  4. #4
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    This is one of my favourites, especially late at night (which is when it's always shown here in Australia). It was remade two or three times, as Sleeping Car To Trieste (with Jean Kent and Albert Lieven) and Gold Express. I love these Sidney Gilliat train comedy thrillers - Seven Sinners and The Lady Vanishes are even better, perhaps.



    ~Tweedy

  5. #5
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    (Tweedy @ Jan 17 2006, 09:04 AM)

    This is one of my favourites, especially late at night (which is when it's always shown here in Australia). It was remade two or three times, as Sleeping Car To Trieste (with Jean Kent and Albert Lieven) and Gold Express. I love these Sidney Gilliat train comedy thrillers - Seven Sinners and The Lady Vanishes are even better, perhaps.



    ~Tweedy
    Not for me - although they are very good films - they do not have Conny Veidt nor Donald Calthrop... or Cedders, I mean Cedric Hardwicke.

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